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April 03, 2010



Rachel, this post is terrible. I really hated it. To pretend to be someone you are not just to get ahead is disgusting... honestly, I can't think of any situation while "gringa" here in the US that I have done the same. But I won't say I have never done it... I really can't think of anything and it is really goes against my own character to do something like this (like to pay less when you can afford to pay more). You can simply ask for a discount, as most Brazilians do. Americans can do this as well. Especially those who have been in the country longer. You have a great deal of bargain power in Brazil. And in this case (low season) you were likely to have gotten a discount, regardless.
Brazilians are nice and generous and you don't need to "pretend" that you are an idiot to get what you want. Maybe in Rio, but again, I would not know much about it. From my own experience in Rio, they give you the wrong change all the time if they think you are a paulista (they are quickly to observe the accent and color of your skin) so it is not surprising if the same applies if you are a foreigner. They are just, you know, "espertinhos".
Before coming to the US I met an American in Sao Paulo who taught me some English and I was helping him with Portuguese. He didn't pretend to be an idiot, and people were nice to him. I went a few times with him to the supermarket. He would make smart jokes (even with his rough Portuguese) and people would make jokes back without the B.S. Ernesto seems to point out. He also got my help and of others by asking questions, like any other intelligent being would. I remember this well as I learned a lot from him. Respect is everything. I never thought he was an idiot and vice-versa. Although he did say Brazilians this or that, which is normal when you are a foreigner. He sees the world from his own experience. Now, there is nothing more annoying than getting around people who pretend to be idiots to get help. Seriously. And believe me, I can tell the difference. I have an American friend in Rio who tries this with me every once in a while and it never works. I also have had students who have been in Rio and then return pretending they do not know something to get something from me. Again, it does not work.
The situation with the driver license, to avoid a ticket, is pretty common in Brazil (and most of the world). People do that all the time, it is called the "jeitinho". You can lie about whatever to avoid a ticket, so don't think that Brazilians cannot tell is a lie because they most likely will know it is. Especially to get away with things. It is human nature, especially in a country where laws are not meant to be taken seriously.
I think this post only support the view that Americans are "idiots". If you know better, why don't act like you do? There is a saying "when in Rome do as the Romans do". Maybe Ernesto could have just as easily used the jeitinho for all the instances above. Now, using jeitinho to play you are stupid is such an ignorant thing to do.


This is brilliant! I will definitely be using this tactic while I'm in Sao Paulo...even though I hate being the dumb American everywhere I go...it does have its advantages in certain situations...and on top of that, I can blend in with the locals-- sometimes lol...



Well, I'm brazilian and look like a foreigner in vacation (middle aged, tall, blond, blue eyes, no makeup, no heels :D) so I had used the 'lost gringo trick' - to the amusement of my daughter ;D

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I don't think it's that horrible if you don't intentionally set out to do this, truly. Sometimes things here can be so tedious and complicated and can really push your patience to the limit. Sometimes things work out in your favor, 1 out of 10 times usually... I feel lucky when it happens to me! And it does not happen often. But the last time was when I was renewing my 4 year olds Brasilian passport, for the 3rd time, and the PF wanted to see the original birth certificate (I had just brought a certified copy because I couldn't find the original)...anyhow, after a couple of "O que's?" and a confused look on my face, they just processed it...thank god. I was just trying to get yet another passport issued for a 4 year old. At 4 years, he has had 3 Brasilian passports and only one U.S. passport, which is still valid for another year. I speak Portuguese well, I have lived here for many years now, and I don't need help with anything normally, but small blessings happen in life from time to time, so I just accept them with a smile. Wherever they come from.

ali la loca

Wow...I can't imagine ever doing this, no matter how bad my language skills were or how much the country and/or its people frustrated me.




so, it seems, this "gringo" is using JEITINHO... the pupil surpasses the master using its own trick!!!


Oh, I'm so sorry that some people hate this. That's really too bad. :(

When I went to Salvador in 2004 I was the stereotypical clueless foreigner. People helped me. A lot.

When I came to Recife in 2007 I was starting to learn the ways of Brazil. But I was still, overall, clueless.

Now, in 2010, I speak Portuguese fluently and no one can tell I'm a foreigner.

And, guess what?, this changes the way people treat me. If I speak with a perfect Brazilian accent, people shove me aside. If I exaggerate the gringo accent and turn on the "dumb gringo" persona, EVERYONE seeks to help me. Rich, poor, black, white. Everyone.

I think that says a lot more about Brazilians that it does about me.



Well, Ernesto, that's really surprising. Come to think of it, it really isn't. It's part of becoming one with Brazilians. My father went through that years ago (he is from Chile), and he knows this well. When he spoke as a Brazilian (no Portunol), people started making fun of his Portuguese, regardless, and nobody seemed to care to help him out. In fact, most people tried to belittle him. What did he do? He bought the best grammar book he could find, learned the ways to defend himself as a Brazilian (mostly by making jokes in Brazilian-style - lol) and blended in. He learned so well the language, he was soon teaching others the story of words and nobody could ever claim they knew better than him. My father did what you need to do: to be true to who you are and learn how to defend yourself. You are not a child anymore, you know. You know the language and the culture well. I never knew this about my father. He never told me this when I lived in Brazil or Chile. I come to learn his experience over the phone, while living in the US. He was always very proud of his (Portuguese) knowledge and attitude, and so am I now.
I also have had plenty of chances to get mistreated here as a foreigner. Especially by the very common "rude" New Yorker. Even when I spoke well, the hardest part is to be able to defend yourself and do as other do in a foreign country and language. Sure, it is ok to do the "jeitinho brasileiro" in Brazil but to pretend to be a fool to get sympathy is something else, I think. I have many friends here that pretend not to know and get caught. They pretend not to know, for example that is illegal to drink on the street, park illegally, etc. Well, people here learn fast. Here, there is not getting around that.
So, my advice to you, if you want any - and, if you really want to know Brazilians - is to learn how to deal with things as a Brazilian. You will never be just a Brazilian, but you will learn so much more this way. You will see the real side of the "friendly" Brazilian. Not the B.S. side of those who help you thinking you are an idiot or just pity your ignorance, but you will learn about "falsidade". You will see a side, an unpleasant side of Brazilians, that at the end, will help you find the right people to become friends with, as, of course, not everyone in Brazil has these two faces. You will learn to see who is who.
Good luck with everything!!


It was history of words, not story of words... LOL


so you use deceit to obtain personal advantage, and when pressed to justify your acts from an ethical point of view, you say, "it's all my victims' fault." awesome.

besides, it's very easy to choose a good yuca or a good sweet potato. of course you wouldn't know.

Marcio Bernardo

Ernesto, did you try to asking for help? I find it hard to believe that Brazilians won't help if you asked for help... Always worked for me (I'm Brazilian), when I had to pick a watermelons I always would politely ask for help and always got

And you said people would shove you aside in what circumstance? do you mean you don't get the same attention as a lost "gringo"?

IF you are not comfortable with your portuguese I guess you could try to barter the way you have... But the problem with your attitude is that unless you never shop at same place you will be "caught" and the backslash will be bad... You don't want to the the "Gringo" that tries to take advantage of everyone, we had a German that used to be a friend like that in Rio he manage to live like that for 2 years, playing dumb and taking advantage of people that tried to help him out... Well is a "persona non grata" now and lost all his Brazilians friends

Brazilians in general are very Friendly and have enormous solidarity so I would suggest that one traveling/Living in Brazil just try to interact with Brazilians and ask for help, I think that the majority of your experience will be very positive

"Coitado do Gringo" is more out of sympathy than contempt, people will wonder how someone will navigate the traps and violence of Brazilians society is you can't even speak the language or lack the basic knowledge of our culture etc it's not the same as "Haole" for example



Well-said Eloisa!! Also, here is a great clip from Sting "An Englishman in New York" that says it all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vq0FRUjSbA

"If, "Manners maketh man" as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say"

I just posted on my blog about my journey back home http://betterdaysinamerica.blogspot.com/, too good not to share. ;)

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